My view from the paddock hasn’t been mango trees recently, instead it has been city lights and busy streets as I have been fortunate enough to attend both the Nuffield Australia farming conference and the GrowAg summit over the last few weeks.
At the risk of sounding corny - my take home from my time away from the farm, is that it is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in Agriculture.
The global trends of a rural to urban migration wave, combined with a hungrier world, a wealthier world, choosy customers and transformative technology make for a ripe mix in the Agriculture arena.
Innovation is a real buzz word at the moment, but that is rightly so and the challenge for Agriculture is how be involved in this ‘knowledge revolution’.
65% of kids in school today will work in jobs in the future that currently don’t exist. Rural communities need entrepreneurs who will combat the ‘brain drain’ and build global businesses from their bedrooms, creating jobs and boosting rural economies. Innovation is about putting ideas and knowledge to good use.
Worldwide, agricultural productivity growth is slowing - the key to making the most of future agriculture opportunities is efficiency in production. For this to occur, we need new technology coupled with an innovative culture. There is much passion, talent and ideas in agriculture but not enough commercialisation, patents or venture capital to bring these innovations to market.
We need to build an eco-system that supports an entrepreneurial mindset in rural Australia.
However - we must not lose sight of the fact that before you can innovate, you must get the basics right. Production (ground prep, weed control, livestock management, timing) and business fundamentals must come before value adding, there is no ‘magic tool’ for sustainable and profitable farming. The drivers of production and productivity in farming won’t change but there is huge potential for productivity growth – driven by technology, precision agriculture and big data collection
Xavier Rizos, from the Westpac Innovation Garage was a highlight from the GrowAg conference. Rizos said ‘the next Steve Jobs will be a farmer’, and explained to delegates that one of the biggest innovations Steve Jobs delivered was not the technology itself…it was providing the product at a price people could afford.
We need to look beyond our borders for innovation and inspiration in ag so as not to run the risk of re-inventing the wheel.
Equally important is the fact that we will have to take our consumers on this agri innovation journey with us to ensure they are informed of the benefits of increased quality, less waste and enriched sustainability due to innovations in their food and fibre production.
During one of the breakout sessions at the GrowAg event, we were asked to visualize Australian Agriculture in 2026 as robust, innovative, successful, well funded, abundant, affordable, and healthy. We were then asked to figure out how, specifically, this future came to be.
My answer? We, the farmers of today, must commit and get involved in our industries, we must collaborate, we must converse with our consumers and we must embrace being creative.
The farms of the future will be owned by the farmers who get it right today.